Fixing Myanmar’s transport woes may cost up to US$60 billion but inaction could be far more expensive, according to a new report.
An analysis into Myanmar’s transport landscape by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) shows a country experiencing both crisis and opportunity.
“Transport Sector Policy Notes” opens bluntly, “Due to massive underinvestment and neglect in recent history, Myanmar’s infrastructure lags behind its Association of Southeast Asian Nations neighbours and hinders access to markets and social services.”
Investment in transport initiatives was just 1.0 to 1.5 percent of the GDP between 2005 and 2015. Other countries at a similar level of development typically invest 3 to 5pc of their GDPs on this area.
As a consequence, 20 million people still lack basic road access, 60pc of highways and most rail lines need “urgent maintenance or rehabilitation” and river transport infrastructure simply “does not exist”.
“Myanmar’s transport sector has suffered, not only because needs have exceeded resources, but also because few investments have been effective and efficient,” it added.
Illustrating the mismatch, ADB noted that 60pc of the rail network serves fewer than 1000 passengers a day, a “level too low to justify even maintaining rail services”.
The human cost of this underinvestment was also noted – road fatalities are on track to double by 2020 if substandard transport conditions remain.
Yangon serves as an epicentre for many of the transport problems.